The craft design world sat up and took notice when Byron & Gomez – Charles Byron and Maria Gomez – came on to the scene three years ago. Graduates of the Craft Council’s Hothouse programme and touted as ‘ones to watch’ by Wallpaper* magazine in 2016, the young duo have impressed many with their traditionally hand crafted furniture designed for contemporary interiors.
Having focused predominantly on bespoke designs up to now, the pair broke new ground in 2017 by working with British institution Benchmark on a design, the Aphelion Console Table, aimed at volume production which was submitted for a Design Guild Mark. The elegance of the piece and exuberance of the duo charmed the judges and Aphelion was awarded a Design Guild Mark.
We recently sat down with Maria to find out more about her career to date.
Who is your design hero?
It has to be the collaborative practice of Charles and Ray Eames. They have been such an inspiration for me throughout my design career. I have always admired their simplicity, playfulness and forward thinking of their design solutions as well as the fact that they had such a diverse practice, designing products from homeware to aviation.
When did you first decide you were going to be a designer?
I wanted to be a designer-maker since I was 14 years old. I was one of those people who had a life goal from a very young age.
What was your first big break in the industry?
We have been in business or three years and we have created great opportunities for ourselves, I will say that having collaborated with Benchmark and won a Design Guild Mark has been a great achievement.
What was the first product you ever designed?
The first product I designed for production was the Round About side table. It is made from Walnut and Carrara Marble with the design taking inspiration form my Caribbean heritage.
Which design are you most proud of?
It has to be the Patria Cabinet (pictured above). We designed this piece to honour and celebrate my Caribbean heritage. Taking inspiration from colonial architecture and traditional Caribbean furniture using rattan, a naturally renewable and sustainable material.
What do you enjoy about being a designer?
The thing I love most is being able to solve or explore design options through making. Having the skills to make a piece of furniture makes the process extremely interesting and satisfying. As well as this, I find great satisfaction in the fact that the furniture that I design is made to last generations and will hopefully become tomorrow’s heirlooms.
What is the most frustrating aspect of your job?
The most frustrating aspect of my practice is finding the appropriate route to market. Furniture does not fall into the impulse buy or gift item category, which makes it hard to sell.
How do you get in the mood to design something?
My design process is not very structured – ideas come when I least expect it, although I am a great believer in Pablo Picasso’s quote ‘Inspiration exists but it has to find us working’.
What influences you?
I am very much influenced by being around like-minded people who are creative and hard working. I love collaborating with other designer-makers from different disciplines as this expands my knowledge and creative boundaries.
Is there a product you wish you’d designed?
Yes, Thonet’s No.21 rocking chair.
For more information about Byron & Gomez, go to www.byronandgomez.co.uk.